Monday, September 30, 2013

East Anglian Holiday (1954)

The drawbacks of unpaid internships in charities

Earlier this month the British Politics and Policy at LSE blog published a post by Charlotte Gerada on research she has conducted on unpaid internships.

From an online survey she found that these were most common in the charitable sector and advances two arguments suggesting they are a bad idea.

The first, which is familiar but none the less powerful for that, runs:
Socially, a lack of accessibility and equality of opportunity could lead to the sector becoming less diverse and more elitist, further halting social mobility. In terms of wider labour market implications, many interviewed charities admitted that unpaid internships reduced entry-level positions and depressed wages in the sector.
As a result of this elitism and inaccessibility, the voluntary sector is losing out on talented, passionate and committed young people, and runs the risk of becoming a sector reserved for those from wealthy backgrounds.
And the second one, which is new to me, runs:
This research suggests that not paying interns is a vicious cycle: charities that don’t pay generate non-essential tasks, leading charities to believe that interns benefit more from the internship, reinforcing justification to not pay. Thus, charities and interns gain little from the arrangement.
You can read Charlotte Gerada's full report on the Unite website.

Council acted illegally by indemnifying chief executive in libel action against blogger

I suspect a post on the blog written by David Hencke will be studied closely in Rutland.

It begins:
A decision by the Wales Audit Office in the last few days should send shivers down the spines of senior council staff thinking of using taxpayer’s money to silence bloggers. 
The audit office have ruled that Carmarthenshire County Council acted illegally by indemnifying its chief executive, Mark James, in a libel action involving local blogger,Jacqui Thompson.
And it ends:
The consequences of this ruling are two-fold. It must question whether the council should continue to provide an indemnity to Mr James in the current appeal. 
It also sends a much wider warning to senior council officials – that they should think more than twice before using public money to pursue people who are critical of them. I don’t know the rights and wrongs of the issues in her blogs, but I do think a public authority should not use public money to crush them. This is a victory for those who support free speech and unfettered debate on matters of public interest.
I mention Rutland because earlier this year Rutland County Council voted to indemnify its chief executive to take legal action against three of its own members.

You can be prosecuted for saying disobliging things about Rutland County Council, so let me just say that it should abandon this legal action at once. It was clear from the outset to anyone with any sense that it was a doomed idea.

Later. I have just been told that on Monday 7 October BBC East Midlands will be devoting its Inside Out programme to the goings on at Rutland County Council. One to watch on the iPlayer if you do not have the good fortune to live in this part of the world.

Arsonists blamed for 20ft straw teddy fire

Once again, the Shropshire Star walks away with our Headline of the Day Award.

The judges also love the photograph, but they were not sure about that apostrophe.

Later. Good news - the rogue apostrophe has disappeared.

"Now then, Monolulu, what's your little game?"

There were reports on Twitter last night that Don Warrington (who will always be Philip from Rising Damp to those of a certain age) had been stopped by anti-terror police on his way to his flat near the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Warrington is currently starring in All My Sons at the city's Royal Exchange theatre.

Perhaps we have not come such a long way from Rigsby after all?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

R. Dean Taylor: There's a Ghost in my House

In honour of Paul Mason's documentary earlier this week - you can still catch in on the BBC iPlayer - here is a Northern soul classic.

"There's a Ghost in my House" was originally released in America as a B-side in 1967. Helped by the Norther Soul boom, it reached no. 3 in the British singles chart in 1974.

Mason placed strong emphasis on the affinity between Northern working-class youth and Black American music - something Joe Boyd has also written about.

But R. Dean Taylor, an important figure in Northern soul was white. He was the first white artist to be signed to Motown, and he wrote this song with that company's great songwriting team Holland, Dozier, Holland.

GUEST POST Pubs must help themselves if they are to survive

Pubs must work harder at pleasing their customers says Matt Wright, founder and director of Melton Mowbray based Great Food Club

I was recently at an unassuming Everards pub called The Tudor on the very urban-feeling Tudor Road in Leicester. Tenant landlord Andrew Trickett cooked a tasty pop-up meal to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support using some locally sourced ingredients.

A few months earlier, in association with De Montfort University's Square Mile project, he set up a makeshift cinema in his pub’s barn, near the site of Leicester’s old Tudor Cinema. He showed some movies with Leicestershire links (The Elephant Man being one, naturally!), put on a Polish film night to appeal to the local Eastern European community and even got one of the sons of the original Dambusters to do a talk before screening the film of the same name.

The reason I mention this is because lots of people are crying into their beer at the moment about British pub closures. We must visit and support our pubs, we are told, or we’ll lose them. The trouble is, some pubs that want our custom aren't doing a great deal to encourage us to visit. A few I've visited could do with a good clean and the staff seem more interested in moaning than creating a brilliant customer experience.

I’m not saying it’s easy out there. Supermarkets selling cheap beer, wine and ready meals are making it extremely challenging. But that said pubs (and restaurants) need to fit in with the modern world, not howl at the moon and believe they have a divine right to exist.

To my mind it’s all about being positive, going back to basics (clean toilets are a good start), getting creative and working hard at building your customer base. Much like Andrew with his pop-up cinema and charity meal.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Railway Roundabout: Fishguard Harbour (1958)

The Liberal Democrats and the FDP

I have been thinking for a while that the Liberal Democrats are becoming like the FDP in Germany: centrist, technocratic, without ideology.

This may not be entirely fair on either party, but the collapse of the FDP vote in the recent German election did give me, like any other Lib Dems, pause for thought.

Generally, those who are most in favour of our party becoming more like the FDP were quickest to assure us that this collapse had no lessons for us.

In a post on Lib Dem Voice (" Nicht Schadenfreude, sondern Selbstverteidigung") Gareth Epps was more concerned at the parallels - and did at least display an impressive grasp of the language.

Now I have come across a post on the British Politics and Policy at LSE blog by Akash Paunand Robyn Munro in which they look at how smaller parties - the Lib Dems and the FDP - fare in coalition.

Based on their research, they come up with six conclusions:
  • smaller parties can only distance themselves from larger coalition partners to a limited extent;
  • smaller parties need to be able to demonstrate their distinct contribution to government to avoid what the former leader of the Irish Green Party called “the narrative of the lost moral compass”;
  • small parties’ success rests greatly upon the performance and profile of the party leader;
  • parties associated with the premature coalition breakdowns are rarely rewarded by voters;
  • smaller parties have a limited influence over whether they remain in government or not.
This last point is an important one, given the emphasis that Nick Clegg has put upon our becoming "a party of government".

It is a point I have made myself, and Raun and Munro go on to flesh it out:
A party may end up in coalition even after a poor election result (as did Democrats 66 in 2003) or may return to opposition even after performing relatively well (as for the German Greens in 2005 or the Scottish Liberal Democrats in 2007).
Raun and Munro suggest the moral is that the Lib Dems should make the most of the rest of this parliament, and seek to achieve as much as possible before 2015.

I would also suggest that we conclude that becoming a party of government is not the result of our achieving some higher political plane but largely the result of an electoral fluke. We should therefore do all we can to maintain a distinct appeal to the electorate and an informed and active membership.

Jeremy Browne enters the global race

Earlier this week I praised an article by Andy Beckett that dissected that new cliché of Conservative ministers' speech, 'the global race. As he wrote:
This race, we are told, is economic. Our opponents are usually specified: the rising countries of Asia and South America such as China, India and Brazil. Yet the prize is vaguely and promiscuously defined: "jobs", "wealth", "growth", "trade", "talent", "technology", "skills", "capital", "competitiveness", "big ideas", "influence", "innovation", "investment", "investment opportunities", "recovery". 
Meanwhile the race is invoked to justify seemingly any government goal or policy: bigger British arms sales abroad and smaller school holidays; tighter immigration controls and looser planning laws; the lavish high-speed rail project HS2 and a leaner Whitehall; harder GCSEs and better childcare; reducing social security and reforming the European Union; promoting the renewable energy industry and the redevelopment of Battersea power station; even dignifying Cameron's recent visit to Kazakhstan.
So I was sorry to see our own Jeremy Browne making free with the concept in a piece for the Spectator website.

Jeremy tells us that "how Britain can best be a contender in the global race, is the biggest fact of life in politics today".

That "everything this government is doing is about making Britain viable contenders in the global race. Our very future depends on it".

And that: "It is not like a school sports day in a Labour-run council where everyone is obliged to go at the pace of the slowest participant. This is the global race."

We need to develop some proper Liberal Democrat clichés for Jeremy to use. Then he won't have to write articles that make him sound indistinguishable from the Conservatives.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Dancing statistics: Explaining the statistical concept of variance through dance

Writing about music may be like dancing about architecture, but it seems you can dance about statistics.

Here is one of a number of rather wonderful videos I came across at work today. More information on the British Psychological Society website.

Six of the Best 388

The implementation of the bedroom tax represents stupidity in action, as Liberal Burblings demonstrates.

Co-producing Digital Mental Health looks at the lessons of the successful campaign against Asda's 'mental patient' costume.

The Criminal Bar Association investigates Chris Grayling and the curious case of the anonymous barrister.

"Philosophy is an inherently social activity that thrives on the collision of viewpoints and rarely emerges from unchallenged interior monologue" says Nigel Warburton on Aeon.

The relentless drilling and hammering as London's super-rich expand their homes spells the end for the Notting Hill that Ed Vulliamy loved - or so he argues in the Guardian.

"The British film industry was only a generation away from having the Coen brothers. Their father grew up in London and their grandmother lived in Hove." Bryan Appleyard interviews the celebrated directors for the Sunday Times.

This charming man: Godfrey Bloom

Lest anyone is feeling sorry for Godfrey Bloom - haven't we all wanted to hit Michael Crick at one time or another? - here is an email he sent after contacted him about proposed improvements to the European Pregnant Workers Directive in 2010.

Thanks to Valuing Maternity.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The spirit of Liberalism

Sir Alan Beith arrives with an old lamp. “It was this quest of yours,” he explains. “I wasn’t sure where to go, so I ended up in an antique shop in Alnwick. I found this. It’s rather battered and the wick needs trimming, but for some reason the flame never goes out.”

“Good heavens man! You’ve found the spirit of Liberalism. I shall have it cleaned and polished at once.”

“I expect you will give it to Clegg when you have done that.”

I consider Beith for a moment and then reply: “No, old fellow. I think you had better look after it.”

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

Earlier this week

London Euston in 1957

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Belligerent youths" wins Phrase of the Day

On Liberator's blog Simon Titley suggests some ways of putting life back into the Liberal Democrat Conference and incidentally wins our Phrase of the Day Award:
If any government ministers want to deliver speeches, let them take their chances in the rough and tumble of debate. Or speak at a fringe meeting. Or do a TV interview outside the hall. Anything but clog up the agenda with the sheer tedium of their over-rehearsed speeches. 
The belligerent youths in the leader’s office wouldn't like it, of course.
I have just finished Ferdinand Mount's The New Few: Or a Very British Oligarchy and this patrician Tory and kinsman of David Cameron takes a similar view of the modern party conference. I strongly recommend his book.

Lord Bonkers is mentioned in Rutland County Council's minutes

From a deputation quoted the minutes of the meeting of Rutland County Council held in the Council Chamber, Catmose, Oakham, on Monday 9 September 2013:
Lord Bonkers aka Guardian journalist Jonathan Calder was shocked enough to include an RCC press release in his satirical blog. Since he lives in Market Harborough one wonders if he will be arrested by Leicester Police in the near future.
"Guardian journalist" is a large exaggeration, but you can read my articles for the newspaper and its website if you wish.

I have no fear of being arrested, but to understand the comment you would have to understand a legal case that is currently being heard, so I shall say no more about it at this stage.

Project Wild Thing

More at Project Wild Thing.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Assuming the worst

I look out across Rutland Water in the twilight. Someone has lit a bonfire on one of the islands and is desperately waving his arms and shouting for rescue.

The telephone rings. It is someone from the Deputy Prime Minister’s office asking if I have seen Clegg.

“The last time I saw him he was swimming away from my boathouse and a baying mob of students and civil libertarians” I tell them. “I am afraid we must assume the worst.”

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

Earlier this week

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Another film of Wicksteed Park in the 1950s

Earlier this week I posted a newsreel film of Wicksteed Park in the 1950s. Here is a home movie of this Kettering amusement park from the same era.

GUEST POST Bullying on Leicester City Council

Photo by Dave Bevis
The treatment of Leicester City Council's sole Liberal Democrat member Nigel Porter by Labour members is no laughing matter, says its sole Conservative member Ross Grant.

Headlines about Labour bullying will surprise no one at the moment given the national media obsession with Damian Macbride. What is worrying though is that the recent story in the Leicester Mercury is not about the Blair/Brown era of internal Labour, but how a large Labour group and elected mayor treat one of only two opposition councillors.

This is no new phenomenon. As the Leicester Mercury also reported, the heckling of the only Liberal Democrat councillor became so bad last year that I wrote to the then Lord Mayor, Abdul Osman, about it.

My concern then was that politics in the council chamber was becoming an unedifying spectacle. That the Lord Mayor's position was being undermined by the behaviour of the Labour group. That respect wasn't being given to someone carrying out their elected duties.

Whether you like or agree with Councillor Porter, something which is well reported I rarely do, he is an elected representative. For that reason alone he should be heard and has a right to ask questions and get answers in meetings.

It is now normal for a large number of Labour councillors to join in ill-mannered heckling of Nigel Porter. It can start very soon into his question. It can last throughout the series of questions that he wants to ask. It frequently seems to be orchestrated by the Labour whip - certainly they can normally be seen joining in. This is all done to the delight of the City Mayor (the Labour Group Leader) and his deputy, who are normally smiling and laughing whilst this goes on.

One reason for doing it is clear. It can make it very difficult to put supplementary questions and to hold your focus. It gives protection to the City Mayor from robust scrutiny. This would be the Damian Macbride defence: the end result is all important, not how you achieve it.

As well as that, it is apparent that a lot of Labour councillors enjoy bating another councillor and relish that he is so obviously affected by it.

The most recent example was the Council meeting last week where for one of his questions Cllr Porter was following up on the answers he received at the meeting of 24 June 2013. You can view it online  from about 02:28:10, though the audio does not catch the intensity of background sound)

Cllr Thomas can be heard joining in the heckling with a call of "There's a lot of us and only one of you. You want to be careful". It achieved exactly what he wanted: it got the City Mayor off the hook of explaining whether he deliberately refused to answer a question.

But it is clear that in this case it has an effect on Nigel. And this behaviour regularly does. To such an extent it has now to be seen as intentional because it cannot be unintentional.

There are lots of reasons you can speculate why such a large group develops such a nasty culture, but that is what we have. The City Mayor claimed at the last meeting that things have got better in recent years. That is easy for him to say, backed up as he is by his gang. The truth is it has not. What used to be witty heckling is now just an unpleasant baying crowd.

It should never have developed into this and the ugly scenes that have become common need to come to an end. This more than anything else will put off good candidates from standing in future elections (but maybe the City Mayor wants that?)

You can follow Ross Grant on Twitter.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "I cannot tell a lie"

Early morning sees the Bonkers Hall Estate thronged with civil libertarians hunting for Clegg. Only a few hours later, they are joined by the students. I have to fire my twelve-bore when they threatened to walk on my cricket pitch, but otherwise I turn a blind eye to their depredations.

Out for a walk this afternoon, I find that they have cornered the very same Well-Behaved Orphan who took Clegg his supper yesterday. Naturally, I move in to rescue the little fellow, who has something of the young Christopher Robin about him.

“Now, my boy,” I ask him, “do you remember that the story I told you the other day? The one about George Washington and the cherry tree and about how a chap should always tell the truth No Matter What? Oh and here’s a shilling: I think sixpence was a bit mean, what with inflation and the price of gobstoppers.”

He assures me he does, and as I walk away I hear him lisping: “I cannot tell a lie: he is in the boathouse.”

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

Earlier this week

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stuart Holmes and party conferences

Alan Winter recalls on his blog today:
I was at a Liberal Conference in Dundee in David Steel's time as leader, when I was first impressed by a "Stop Smoking Now" campaigner. Whoever he was, he stood outside in all weathers, including torrential rain, with very large banners and did his utmost to be in the background shots of all tv interviews that were broadcast outside.
That campaigner must have been Stuart Holmes, the protester attacked by Iain Dale for disrupting an interview with Damian McBride this morning.

The film above shows a much younger Holmes profiled in 1986, the year after the Liberal Assembly in Dundee (the one I helped to organise from two narrow boats moored at Foxton locks).

I recall Ralph Bancroft asking him on to the stage at the Glee Club one year to sing one of his anti-smoking songs.

Holmes can be a bit of a pain, so let us leave the last word to The Media Blog on Twitter...

Lord Bonkers' Diary: A particularly civil civil libertarian

To the Bonkers’ Arms, which is simply chock-a-block: as soon one barrel of Smithson & Greaves Northern Bitter is breached it is time to tap another one. I get talking to some the throng and discover that they are all civil libertarians – sound chaps to a man and, indeed, woman. Some are outraged by Clegg’s support for secret courts, while others take a dim view of his support for the smashing of the Manchester Guardian’s computers. (A woman called Miranda also comes into it somewhere, but I am afraid I did not grasp that bit. Still, I am sure she is A Very Good Sort.)

Conversation soon turns to where Clegg may be found. I, of course, decline to breathe a word and suggest they ask Meadowcroft. I later note him tapping his nose and leering while accepting a pint from a particularly civil civil libertarian.

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

Earlier this week

Write a guest post for Liberal England

This is a reminder that I welcome guest posts on Liberal England. So far 33 have appeared.

And as you can see from the list of the 10 most recent guest posts below, I am happy to consider a wide range of subjects.

If you would like to write a guest post for Liberal England yourself, please send me an email so we can discuss your idea.

  • Spelling out the reason to vote Liberal Democrat - Andrew Brown
  • Tommie Smith - The man behind the image - Matt Roebuck
  • Don’t make the dull middle class go to university - Dr Anonymous
  • House of Lords reform in a 1950s whodunnit - Charles Beaumont
  • The difficulty of getting started in farming - Joshua Metcalfe
  • Why the British say no to new builds - Amy Fowler
  • The uncertain politics of railway preservation - Joseph Boughey
  • How Liberal Democrats can help fight for privacy rights in Europe - Peter Bradwell
  • Political defections: Storms of protest or signs of political climate change? - Alan Wyburn-Powell
  • Transition Town Market Harborough - Darren Woodiwiss
  • Monday, September 23, 2013

    Eddie Isaac, hero of Leicester railway station

    The nonsense of the 'global race'

    Andy Beckett has a good article in today's Guardian on the inexorable rise of the concept of the 'global race':
    Rushed into use shortly after the 2012 Olympics, by a party whose key figures went to expensive schools that fetishise sport and general competitiveness, "the global race" is hardly the most subtle or socially sensitive of rhetorical devices. But it has the advantage of flexibility. Britain, the Tories tell us, needs to "win" it, "succeed" in it, and get "to the top" in it; "compete" in it, "thrive in" it, and be "strong" in it; "fight" in it; or merely, "equip" itself for it and "get fit for" it. If Britain fails to do some or all of these things, it will "sink", "lose", "fall behind", be left in "the slow lane", or let "others take over". 
    This race, we are told, is economic. Our opponents are usually specified: the rising countries of Asia and South America such as China, India and Brazil. Yet the prize is vaguely and promiscuously defined: "jobs", "wealth", "growth", "trade", "talent", "technology", "skills", "capital", "competitiveness", "big ideas", "influence", "innovation", "investment", "investment opportunities", "recovery". 
    Meanwhile the race is invoked to justify seemingly any government goal or policy: bigger British arms sales abroad and smaller school holidays; tighter immigration controls and looser planning laws; the lavish high-speed rail project HS2 and a leaner Whitehall; harder GCSEs and better childcare; reducing social security and reforming the European Union; promoting the renewable energy industry and the redevelopment of Battersea power station; even dignifying Cameron's recent visit to Kazakhstan.
    Beckett quotes Philip Booth of the free-market Institute of Economic Affairs casting doubt on the concept:
    "Economists don't think of trade as a race in any way," says Booth. "The world economy is not a zero-sum game. Countries get richer together. If China carries on reforming and growing, there will be more opportunities there for Britain." Reich agrees: "The race needn't [mean that] every country's citizens lose ground, but some lose more than others … or [that] some can gain only at the expense of others … We can all grow, and at the same time spread prosperity to more people."
    The global race is not really a free-market concept at all - those who think it is should study the idea of comparative advantage. Its closest relative is the idea of national efficiency, which flourished before the First World War and, thanks to a similar looseness, could justify anything from socialised medicine to eugenics.

    Lord Bonkers Diary: The students are revolting

    I am taking tea on the terrace when I notice an unruly mob struggling with the door the tradesmen’s entrance. I hurry over to give them a piece of my mind.

    “We’re students,” they say, “and we’re looking for that Nick Clegg.” It soon transpires that they are jolly cross with him – tuition fees and so forth.

    “Now look here,” I say. “In the first place, this is private property: in the second, you are all pulling at a door marked ‘Push’. Let me assure you, you won’t find Nick Clegg in the Hall.” I may, quite inadvertently, have winked at this point.


    Talking of Clegg, I wouldn’t see the fellow starve. I have Cook rustle him up a cold supper and summon a Well-Behaved Orphan to take it to him in a wicker basket, with the promise of shiny new sixpence if he is quick about it.

    Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

    Earlier this week

    Sunday, September 22, 2013

    Wicksteed Park, Kettering, in the 1950s

    Inquiry into briefings against Vince Cable by Nick Clegg's office

    On Liberal Democrat Voice Caron Lindsay points us to an article in this morning's Observer:
    Nick Clegg has launched an inquiry into claims that aides have been involved in a "dirty tricks" campaign against his leadership rival Vince Cable. 
    The Liberal Democrat leader is investigating an allegation that members of the media have been briefed with erroneous information damaging Cable's position in the party. 
    The move followed an angry complaint from an MP during a meeting of the parliamentary party at last week's Lib Dem conference in Glasgow. The dispute centres on an economic debate held during an away day for Lib Dem MPs last month. 
    A number of reports, including one by the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson, alleged that Cable lost heavily when he proposed at the event that the government should borrow more, at current very low interest rates, to fund more capital spending. One source, reportedly close to Clegg, told the Sun: "The good doctor has been well and truly put back in his box."
    I blogged about this "back in his box" comment at the time. What I heard in return amounted to "Well, Matthew Oakeshott started it", which was not particularly encouraging.

    Still, I am not sure an inquiry is needed. Can't Nick just tell his people to stop doing it?

    There are two other problems with communications from Nick Clegg's office. The Observer quotes one unnamed Lib Dem MP as describing Nick's aides as "the Stasi".

    I would not go that far, but the tone of "people close to the Liberal Democrat leader" quoted in the press is often unfortunate. They tend to come over as a little too pleased with themselves, dismissive of the wider party and out of touch with the concerns of those struggling to make it through the economic downturn.

    As this is the sort of view those who do not like Nick Clegg tend to take of him, it is precisely the wrong tone for his spokespeople to adopt.

    The other problem is identified by Caron:
    Our senior sources need to spend their time making sure that we respond quickly enough to major stories like the Go home poster vans or David Miranda’s detention. Two days in each case to get a Liberal Democrat approach out there was about 47 hours too long. That phrase “on message, in volume, over time” applies to them too. 
    You aren’t doing anything to create a stronger economy in a fairer society enabling everyone to get on in life while you’re giving a completely inaccurate account of a meeting to a journalist.
    I'll never be as on message as her, but Caron is right to identify a problem in basic competence about the leader's press operation.

    I suggest Nick tells his people that they are not Damian McBridge and are not in The West Wing but are there to do what is in many ways a mundane job. And if he has to bring people people in from outside his circle to achieve competence, that will be no bad thing.

    Traffic: Dream Gerrard

    The great eccentric of the British music scene was Viv Stanshall. And one of the more unexpected facts about Steve Winwood's career is that Stanshall wrote the lyrics of the title track on Arc of a Diver, the album that relaunched him as a star of MTV in the 1980s.

    Steve Winwood one said of him:
    "He was a one-off. he found the route that brought together elements of intellectual with rock’n’roll and comedy and poetry - he was incredibly well read - and it was just a unique combination. He couldn't possibly create a niche or an art form because no-one else was clever enough to do it."
    This track from Traffic's 1974 album When the Eagle Flies also has lyrics by Stanshall. He described the song's genesis in one of his last interviews, which is quoted by Alan Clayton on Ginger Geezer:
    Backtracking a bit, can you tell me how Dream Gerrard (on Traffic's Where The Eagle Flies) came about? 
    I was suffering a severe bout of depression when I was staying at Steve's house, and he said, "We're off to dinner. Are you coming?" I said, "No, I'm reading about this French poet and I don't feel very well." So he went off and I wrote not more than a quatrain about Gerard de Nerval. When he came back, he said, "Right! That's a chorus. We need a verse for that." And he went into the front room and started plonking away on the piano. 
    What was the difference between writing with Steve and writing for the Bonzos with Neil Innes? 
    With Neil, we bickered when writing together, or else I attended to the words and he provided the music, or vice-versa. With Steve, it was much closer because of our agreement spiritually - although we have hardly anything in common, we go out for walks and agree philosophically. We have a damn good sort out with each other before we approach whatever the damn thing means.
    Quite what Dream Gerrard means may still be a puzzle:
    Hippos don't wear hats,
    Lobsters shriek if provoked
    On long blue ribbons
    but enjoy Traffic's playing. By 1974 all their tracks tended to last 11 minutes, perhaps because they were all too stoned to be able to stop.

    Lord Bonkers' Diary: Nick Clegg in the boathouse

    Clegg arrives at the Hall in a car that looks rather the worse for recent collisions: “I've decided to stop looking in the rear-view mirror,” he explains breezily. He tells me he wants to lie low for a while as he has upset rather a lot of people lately.

    “You will be quite safe here,” I assure him. “Why don’t you hide in my boathouse? No one will think of looking for your there.”

    Later I walk down to the Bonkers’Arms, where I recall they have one of those telephones with a Button B....

    Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

    Earlier this week

    Saturday, September 21, 2013

    From National Front HQ to Husseins Bakery

    The Media Archive for Central England (MACE) has a 10-minute ATV Today film from 1976 on the rise of the National Front in Leicester. At the city council elections held just before the film was made this far-right party, though it had not won any seats, had polled more than 18 per cent of the vote.

    Halfway through the film we are shown the city's National Front office. I went there today - Fernie Street is just off the Uppingham Road - to photograph the building and found it is now Husseins Bakery. (To be honest, thanks to Google Street View, I already knew that, but its more fun taking you own photographs and for some odd reason exploring this part of Leicester makes me happy.)

    There are several films about the Imperial Typewriters strike on the MACE site, which had a strong racial element, and that is a subject to which I may return one day.

    But I am left with a puzzle. I have a clear memory of seeing a National Front headquarters on the Uppingham Road itself (or possibly on another main road nearby) in 1976 or even a year or two before. Perhaps it was a temporary HQ for a local or Westminster election campaign, or perhaps someone had plastered an empty shop with NF posters. But I know I saw it.

    Roger Helmer's views on women are worse than Godfrey Bloom's

    In the aftermath of Godfrey Bloom's implosion yesterday, UKIP sent Roger Helmer and his comedy moustache on to Channel 4 News and Newsnight to calm things down.

    When Roger Helmer becomes your voice of reason you know you are in trouble.

    And it is worth pointing out that Roger Helmer has said far worse things about women than Bloom ever has.

    Lord Bonkers' Diary: Telling The Truth

    The latest issue of Liberator was mailed to subscribers before the Liberal Democrat Conference, so it is high time we spent some more time with Rutland's most celebrated fictional peer.

    Telling The Truth

    From time to time I like to share my accumulated wisdom with the Well-Behaved Orphans. Today I give them a little talk on the importance of Telling The Truth and touch upon the infant George Washington – no doubt you know the tale.

    I emphasise that there is nothing wrong with chopping down trees – Mr Gladstone would often do so when he came to the Hall. So much so, indeed, that my grandfather kept a supply of Cow Gum to hand so that he could put the trees back after the GOM had left. For years I maintained it myself, so that it could be used by passing Focus editors, but there does not seem the demand for it these days.

    Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

    Friday, September 20, 2013

    Godfrey Bloom hits Michael Crick

    Six of the Best 387

    Thinking Liberal reports from the Liberal Democrat Conference and concludes: "Lib Dems tend to be very self congratulatory about this supposedly democratic way of adopting party policy by a biannual meeting of self appointed activists. Scepticism is in order, but I think the process is of real value in keeping members and activists involved. But this does not inevitably follow from the constitutional processes. It matters a lot how the party’s various leadership bodies choose to use them."

    "Go Home" posters are still on display in UKBA's Glasgow office, reports Caron's Musings.

    The Cricket Geek describes his experience of depression.

    It's not much of a life being a middling chess grandmaster, says Britain's Danny Gormally on the website of Natalia Pogonina.

    "It is Crompton’s style that makes them truly outstanding. She is the most accomplished writer of children’s fiction in the 20th century, not least because she had an intuitive grasp of their psychology." Writing in the THES, De Montfort University's Gary Day argues that it is time the literary critics took the Just William books seriously.

    Kilburn History reveals that, with West Hampstead, this part of London has played a significant part in the recording industry, with both Decca and Island Records based there.

    Thursday, September 19, 2013

    Secret Jersey court case

    Four prominent Jersey citizens have sued the blogger and former senator Stuart Syvret because they want to have posts removed from his blog.

    They are not suing him for libel, as you might expect, but under data protection legislation.

    Their legal action is being funded by the Jersey government.

    And the trial took place in secret.

    That's justice, Jersey style.

    Thanks to voiceforchildren.

    Social Good Summit 2013

    Three years ago Oxfam sent me to New York to blog about the Millennium Development Goals Summit and the Social Good Summit.

    You too can share in this year's Social Good Summit (without the per diem expenses, obviously) via its website.

    And there will be a lot of good stuff there:
    The Social Good Summit is a three-day conference where big ideas meet new media to create innovative solutions. Held during UN Week from September 22-24, the Social Good Summit unites a dynamic community of global leaders to discuss a big idea: the power of innovative thinking and technology to solve our greatest challenges. 
    The most innovative technologists, influential minds and passionate activists will come together with one shared goal: to unlock the potential of new media and technology to make the world a better place, and then to translate that potential into action.

    Crisis? What crisis? My Leicester Mercury column on the Liberal Democrats

    This is my surprisingly loyalist 'First person' column in today's Leicester Mercury.

    Three years in and the Lib Dems are doing okay

    Crisis? What crisis? When I joined the Liberal Party in the late 1970s we were finishing behind the National Front in parliamentary by-elections and our former leader was about to go on trial at the Old Bailey for conspiracy to murder. That’s a crisis.

    The Liberal Democrats at their Conference in Glasgow this week has been wrestling with a very different problem.

    Our rickety electoral system managed to produce the correct result at the 2010 general election. The voters wanted to get rid Gordon Brown and Labour, but didn’t wholly trust David Cameron and the Conservatives. So a Tory – Liberal Democrat coalition was about the right outcome.

    The Liberal Democrats were left to answer a new question for Westminster politics: how does the junior partner in a coalition maintain its identity while acting as a responsible party of government?

    We have not got everything right, but we have made a pretty good job of it. The Lib Dems have been unshakeable in their commitment to cutting spending to put right the mess that Labour left us. When a pretty mild alternative was put forward at the Conference, it was voted down.

    The Coalition has helped businesses create over a million new private sector jobs and 1.2 million apprenticeships have started, some with financial support from the government. Best of all, we are giving a £700 tax cut to 24 million people by making sure nobody pay any income tax on the first £10,000 they earn.

    That tax cut was in the Liberal Democrat manifesto. David Cameron said it couldn’t be done, but we made him do it.

    Not that I always agree with Nick Clegg. I was pleased to see the Lib Dem Conference vote against the ‘bedroom tax’ this week and pleased to see many of our MPs refuse to support military strikes on Syria. This coalition business is difficult and Nick and his party are still learning.

    But, I hear you ask, aren’t the Liberal Democrats doomed? Just look at the opinion polls!

    We Lib Dems are used to doing badly in mid-term polls and we hold many of our seats because we are strong local campaigners. You can look at Eastleigh, where we held the by-election that followed Chris Huhne’s resignation, but there are good examples nearer to home.

    In this year’s county elections the Liberal Democrats scored their best ever result in Hinckley & Bosworth, held all their seats in Oadby & Wigston and polled more votes than any other party across the Harborough constituency.

    Coalition is not easy, but the Liberal Democrats are alive and kicking.

    Jonathan Calder is a former Liberal councillor in Harborough and blogs at Liberal England.

    Wednesday, September 18, 2013

    Mind, madness and power: Is psychiatry dangerous?

    An enlightening and good-natured discussion chaired by Isabel Hilton. The participants are consultant psychiatrist Sir Simon Wessely, clinical psychologist Richard Bentall and sociologist Steve Fuller. The first two are particularly good.

    More from Richard Bentall in an earlier video on this blog.

    Lembit Opik wants to be the new Lib Dem candidate in Brent Central

    The conclusion of a - how shall I put it? - remarkable article by Lembit Opik on Huffington Post:
    So, this is the central question for Brent Central: if the local party agrees with me it's time to move on from Clegg and the 'Orange Book' - and if they concur that their best hope of holding Brent Central is a 'left leaning truly liberal' agenda and a 'grass roots campaign,' they now have the chance to select someone who feels the same.

    Was Cyril Smith not prosecuted because of a possible Con-Lib coalition?

    The 1970s were a strange, strange decade. Elements of the intelligence services had convinced themselves that Harold Wilson was a KGB plant - hadn't he taken over on the sudden and convenient death of Hugh Gaitskell? - and retired soldiers drilled private armies to be ready when civil order broke down.

    Now Pride's Purge has suggested the decade may have been stranger still:
    After the 1974 election, negotiations began between the incumbent Prime Minister Edward Heath's Conservative Party and Jeremy Thorpe's Liberals to form a coalition government together. 
    In 1974, Cyril Smith was one of the leading lights of the Liberals and he most certainly would have been offered a ministerial seat in any Conservative-Liberal coalition government cabinet. 
    Needless to say, the allegations of abuse the police were preparing against Smith would have scuppered any hopes of a coalition agreement. 
    And when did the Smith abuse file disappear after MI5 requested it from Special Branch? Yes, you've guessed it. 
    In 1974 - sometime around the same time Smith's Liberal Party were negotiating a coalition agreement with the Tories. 
    It looks suspiciously to me like elements of MI5 decided they were not going to allow negotiations to keep out a Labour government to be scuppered by such a trivial matter as a child abuse scandal involving a probable future cabinet minister. 
    What do you think?
    Well, what do you think?

    I am not convinced, but it is a lovely theory. And the seventies were strange days indeed.

    My Favourite Blogs XI

    It's a long time - far too long - since Liberal England had a blogroll. As a first step to putting that right I have added My Favourite Blogs XI to using Blogger's bloglist feature.

    As the name suggests, this is an eclectic selection of some of my favourite blogs - 11 seems about the right number whether you are a cricket fan or not.

    My intention is to reserve it for blogs that are updated reasonably regularly, so I shall review it from time to time. Remember the way clubs had to apply for re-election to the old Fourth Division?

    I shall soon be adding a conventional blogroll too. This will have many more Liberal Democrat and other political blogs as well as some that are, happily, not about politics at all.

    Tuesday, September 17, 2013

    The last rags of summer

    Little Bowden this evening.

    Lord Bonkers' introduction to the new Liberator Songbook

    Three years ago tonight I was in New York. A year ago I was in Manchester. But this evening finds me in Market Harborough.

    Anyway,here is the foreword to new Liberator songbook that my fellow Liberal Democrats will be using at the Conference Glee Club this evening.

    Bonkers Hall
    Tel: Rutland 7

    Risselty-rosselty, hey, pomposity 
    Nickety nackety noo, noo, noo.

    There is no denying it: the Scots have a way with a lyric. That is why I was delighted when I heard that the Liberal Democrat Conference was to take place in Glasgow this year. And when I heard it will take place in Glasgow next year too… Well, you can imagine my reaction.

    Liberal leaders from the chillier side of the Border are well represented in the Scottish national songbook.  One thinks of Blue Mink’s wish to be the “Campbell-Bannerman”, of that stately hymn tune “Grimond” and of the New Seekers’ pledge to “Beg, Steel or Borrow”.

    More recently the Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Menzies Campbell QC, MP has been widely celebrated – “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that Ming,” as many a jazz chanteuse has put it. The Troggs sang about “Wild Ming” (a side of his character of which we saw too little), while One Direction (who are, I gather, very popular with the young people) assures us there is “One Ming”. On reflection, that is probably a good thing, Ming.

    It is, however, the career of Charles Kennedy that has most occupied the lyrics writers of Caledonia: “When Charlie to the Highlands Came,” “Charlie is my Darling,” “Wha’ll be King but Charlie?” Now that I come to think of it though, I have not heard “Will ye no Come Back Again” recently. Perhaps he was noo awa’ once too often?

    I am sorry to end on a note of controversy, but I have to report an act of blatant plagiarism. You will all, I am sure, be familiar with that rousing anthem “Flower of Rutland,” with its call to “arise and be a county again”. It inspired the Maquis that drove Leicestershire’s tanks from our fields and lanes, and can still be heard at the Bonkers’ Arms when the Smithson & Greaves Northern Bitter has been flowing particularly freely.

    So what is it doing in this songbook under the title “Flower of Scotland?” When I find the man responsible I shall horsewhip him on the steps of his club – if it has any steps, obviously.


    Supermarket Harborough

    The most important decision Harborough District Council took while I was a member - more important even than building the town's leisure centre - was to allow the redevelopment of the cattle market in Market Harborough.

    I supported this move, which was controversial, because I hoped that by allowing a major supermarket to be built there (it turned out to be a Sainsbury's) we would prevent one being built near the new by-pass and thus keep shoppers in the town centre.

    And it worked. Market Harborough town centre has remained prosperous despite the economic downturn. New supermarkets have arrived since Sainsbury's - Aldi, Lidl, Waitrose - but they have all been built close to the town centre.

    Today comes news that Tesco wants to build a large new store on the site of the old Focus DIY store on Rockingham Road - away from the town centre and close to the by-pass. The Harborough Mail has the full details.

    I hope it does not go ahead.

    It's not that I am a rabid opponent of supermarkets. I do a lot of my shopping in them and believe that Market Harborough is thriving because it has a good balance of national chains and small local shops.

    When I was a councillor more than one older voter told me that in the 1950s and 1960s the old town council had done its best to keep supermarkets and new business out because councillors feared they would force up wages. Such was the dominance of the town shopkeepers on that council that I can quite believe it.

    But that was a long time ago and the balance of shops Market Harborough enjoys today can easily be destabilised. And if there is a large supermarket in Rockingham Road then the people who shop there may never see the town centre at all.

    People are asking whether Market Harborough needs another supermarket. But these national chains know there business very well and I suspect this new store is aimed chiefly at the people who come into Market Harborough to do their main weekly shop. I find it hard to believe that the people who live in the pleasant new houses that  ring Corby, for instance, shop in that town.

    So a new supermarket in the Rockingham Road will keep those shoppers out of the town centre and away from all the other shops. Far from creating jobs, as is claimed, it may end up destroying them.

    The only good thing about a new Tesco going ahead would be that I might see one of my ambitions for the town realised. The current small Tesco on The Square is housed in a nasty 1960s building that is unworthy of that setting. It would be lovely to see it pulled down and replaced by something better.

    More evidence that Lib Dem MPs can beat the opinion polls

    It has been common, at least since Mike Thornton won the Eastleigh by-election, for Liberal Democrats to argue that those who say we will be all but wiped out at the next general election are mistaken. Never mind the opinion polls, our MPs are popular and good campaigners, so they have a sporting chance of keeping their seats.

    More evidence for this view comes from the October issue of Total Politics.

    The magazine asked the members of YouGov's online panel about their satisfaction with their own MP. The results were startling:
    if you’re a Conservative and you have a Labour MP, you can be forgiven for being predisposed to being dissatisfied with what they’re doing, and vice versa. 
    But Lib Dem MPs appear to be able to reach across that divide. Even among non-Lib Dem voters, Lib Dem MPs scored +7. Amongst Lib Dem-voting respondents who had a Lib Dem MP, the score was an astonishing +61. 
    We need to be cautious here: once you cut the data in a normal-sized survey down to focus just on Lib Dem voters (of whom there are currently not many) and who have Lib Dem MPs (of whom there are even fewer), you’re soon down to very small numbers of respondents and large margins of error. 
    Still, while all MPs do better among those who will vote for that party than those who won’t, Lib Dems appear to be able to connect with non-supporters in a way that neither Labour nor Conservative MPs can.
    The poll also found that
    the views of those who've contacted their local MP about that MP are almost entirely dependent on how satisfactory the contact was. This relationship holds true regardless of the party leanings of the constituent.
    Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

    Railway Bridge Across the Thames (1968)

    Grosvenor Bridge takes the railway to Victoria station across the River Thames. During the latter half of the 1960s the bridge was replaced without closure to rail or river traffic.

    Monday, September 16, 2013

    Now it’s the Lib Dems who talk of power, and the Tories who plot

    Benedict Brogan wins our Headline of the Day Award.

    Six of the Best 386

    The Real Blog (AKA David Boyle) expresses its disbelief at being Liberal Democrat Blog of the Year and expresses his gratitude to, amongst others, "all my fellow bloggers who are dedicated to the grand cause that conversation about ideas, with ideas, for ideas, shall not perish from the Lib Dems".

    "The difference in understanding was the most direct: those in favour of the filters seemed to have very little comprehension of how the internet worked – or even how young people think and behave." Paul Bernal's Blog on the Lib Dem Conference's rejection of 'default-on' porn filters.

    Writing on Free Future, the blog of the American Civil Liberties Union, Chris Soghoian explains how the National Security Agency has worked to insert intentional flaws into security software by manipulating the technical standards setting process and by collaborating with 'patriotic' American technology software companies.

    Welcome to the Madhouse finds that children of different ages playing together is now seen as a problem.

    The food industry is exploiting children, according to an expert panel discussion reported by the Harvard Gazette.

    Living on Words Alone visits Combe Conduit, which for centuries provided the water supply for Hampton Court.

    Ed Davey hit by Daily Politics sign on live TV

    Northampton terrorised by mystery clown

    From the Northampton Herald & Post:
    The sinister clown that has been appearing on Northampton's streets made another visitation last night. 
    He was pictured in his trademark white make-up and red wig on St Michael's Road waving forlornly with a clown teddy hanging from his other hand. 
    The appearance came after a posting on the Facebook page Spot Northampton's Clown promised the clown would be in town. 
    He said: "To prove i'm real to all the lovers and doubters, i'll see you in town today. Keep those eyes peeled." 
    So far the clown as been seen in the Kingsley and Abington areas of the town. St Michael's Road is in the town centre.

    Sunday, September 15, 2013

    The Glasgow Underground in 1975

    Richard Grayson has joined the Labour Party

    In July Richard Grayson used the Compass website to announce that he was leaving the Liberal Democrats.

    This evening he has used Comment is Free to announce that he is joining Labour.

    Private Eye's 1979 item on Cyril Smith

    When the story about Cyril Smith abusing boys reappeared in the media last year I wrote:
    I first heard of the allegations against Cyril Smith when I read them in Private Eye in 1979. The Eye had picked them up from the Rochdale Alternative Press (RAP - those were the days when any self-respecting town had an 'alternative' newspaper). Northern Voices reprinted the original RAP story in 2010. 
    My instinct has always been to assume that they were true, if only because I could not see why anyone would trouble to invent anything so tawdry - he "'told me to take my trousers down and hit me four or five times on my bare buttocks" - about someone who was then only a local politician.
    Thanks to Channel 4's excellent documentary last week, we now know that Smith's behaviour went much further than that.

    Anyway, here is the item that appeared in Private Eye in 1979 - you will have to enlarge it to read it.

    Thanks to The Needle.

    Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

    The Rockingbirds: Till Something Better Comes Along

    Two years ago I chose Restless, a track by the 1990s British country rock band The Rockingbirds, as a Sunday music video.

    The good news is that they have just released a new CD. No Depression writes about it and the band:
    For the uninitiated, and that will be the majority of people, this is the Rockingbirds third album, with the previous one being released in 1995 and, mercifully, absolutely nothing has changed with the passing of time. 
    In the early 1990’s, the music industry - and especially British music - was in the doldrums. A small number of hardy individuals, and I count myself in that number, discovered a handful of bands in America who were playing Country-Rock but with a Punk attitude. 
    Only a handful of these British brave foot soldiers stopped shaving and donned their Stetsons and formed bands; but those who did have gone down in history and are still hailed as genuine legends. 
    The Rockingbirds stood head and shoulders above everyone else on the minuscule scene with their authentic, heartfelt songs and musicianship. But, their flame only shone for a couple of years with a couple of sightings in 2008 and '09 to support the re-release of their debut album. 
    With this history lesson now in place, news of this brand new album was initially greeted with skepticism by the Alt-Country cognoscenti, but here it is in all its glory. 
    I truly wish I could tell you I dropped the needle into the groove but, with the merest hint of trepidation, I pressed ‘play’ and the most glorious sound came out of my speakers.

    Saturday, September 14, 2013

    The battle for the footloose idealists

    While I have Liberator 135, the issue that was sold at the Liberal Party's 1983 Assembly in Harrogate, on my desk, let me quote from an article that has surprising contemporary resonance.

    This comes from an article by Michael Meadowcroft, the newly elected Liberal MP for Leeds West:
    The task for Liberals is as it was in 1974 and in 1979 and was barely tackled. It is to win the battle for the hearts and minds of those thousands of concerned, worried, caring and potentially political individuals who exist up and down the land. 
    These are the footloose idealists who reject the pessimism and the ruthlessness of the new Conservatism and who find it hard to stomach the authoritarian left and the impotent right of the Labour Party. 
    They are the people who will commit themselves to some worthwhile cause and if we don't reach them they will just as easily end up in Friends of the Earth, the peace movement or the local community centre -worthy causes to be sure, but not with the potential of being able to confront Thatcherism and within a few years to have the cane to remove it from office. 
    Win people with conviction and they will win others. Try to appeal directly to the crowd and the message is thereby diluted.
    This still seems spot on to me, which is why the politics of the Transparency and Lobbying Bill have been so odd.

    Take Tom Brake's first article on the subject for Liberal Democrat Voice. At its centre was an attack on 38 Degrees and told us to read an article by Chloe Smith if we wanted to know more.

    38 Degrees can be irritating, but its supporters are just the sort of people that Michael Meadowcroft was talking about. For all their faults, they represent a more likely source of new Lib Dem activists than do people who take the word of Conservative ministers as gospel.

    But 30 years ago we also had a telegenic leader who dreamt of appealing to over the heads of his activists to the voters.

    I suppose the moral is still that you should subscribe to Liberator.

    The Liberal Democrats at Pooh Corner

    If you were using the Liberal Democrats to cast a dramatisation of Winnie-the-Pooh, Vince Cable would be Eeyore and Paddy Ashdown would surely be Tigger. Ashdown may be advancing into his eighth decade, but the former leader bounces with energy and optimism, even when contemplating the prospects for his party.
    writes Andrew Rawnsley, opening an interview with Paddy Ashdown in tomorrow's Observer.

    So if Vince is Eeyore and Paddy is Tigger, what about the rest of A.A. Milne's characters?

    We lost our Wol when Roy Jenkins died, though I suppose Ming Campbell comes somewhere close today.

    And Nick Clegg must be Rabbit, with his busyness and confidence in his own judgement. He even has an office of Friends and Relations to brief against those who question his leadership.

    But who are Pooh and Piglet and Kanga and Roo? And where is Christopher Robin?

    Richard III and Sir Peter Soulsby

    One is a power-crazed tyrant who dealt ruthlessly with anyone who stood in his way.

    The other is a widely loved monarch tragically slain at the Battle of Bos...

    You can see where this is going.

    Thanks to the Leicester Mercury for the photo.

    Friday, September 13, 2013

    Six of the Best 385

    Caron's Musings finds the Liberal Democrats in a pickle over porn: "The truly bizarre thing is that the amendment that was selected is, incredibly, even worse than the main motion. It imposes a bulky bureaucracy that will have very little effect and, does not prioritise education. Why are we thinking that we can just leave it to machines and technology to sort out our warped and unhealthy attitude to sex?"

    A new report from the Adam Smith Institute explains why the government's Help to Buy scheme will stoke a housing bubble by boosting demand without doing anything for supply and risk taxpayer money in the process.

    Zelo Street reports that Nadine Dorries has been offered a six figure sum to write a trilogy of autobiographical novels.

    "He is much concerned that the secret world has become 'the spiritual home' of the British political establishment, an upper clergy that is 'pernicious' and 'widely spread'. Philippe Sands interviews John Le Carré for the FT Magazine.

    Archaeologists from the University of Maryland and Morgan State University have uncovered evidence that the first free black community in the US was established as early as 1790 by former slaves who had bought their freedom. Read more on Can You Dig It?

    Londonist remembers the day Peter Pan was tarred and feathered.

    John Hemming on preventing child abuse scandals

    An interview from last night's Channel 4 News.

    Thursday, September 12, 2013

    The Melksham Link

    More about the Melksham Link on the Wilts & Berks Canal website.

    Shortlisted for Lib Dem Blog of the Year and Tweeter of the Year

    It's a while since of have been shortlisted for any of these awards, so I am pleased to have made the list in both these categories. Thanks to whoever nominated and selected me.

    The shortlist for Blog of the Year:
    The shortlist for Tweeter/Facebooker of the Year:
    If nothing else, Jennie has the best blog title - though it may well have been renamed something equally wonderful by the time of the ceremony.

    Incidentally, I nominated David Boyle for Blog of the Year. (When I rang Lib Dem Voice Towers this evening they said it was too late to withdraw the nomination.)

    I shall not be in Glasgow, but if I do win one of the awards I shall certainly send my fridge to receive it on my behalf.

    What Paddy Ashdown said about winning Yeovil in 1983 - in 1983

    Liberal Democrat Voice tells us that a chapter of Paddy Ashdown’s bestselling autobiography A Fortunate Life has been released as a free download.

    Helen Duffett writes there:
    It’s called 1983 – The Winning of Yeovil, and as I wrote in 2009: 
    MP also stands for Military Precision, so it’s no surprise that Paddy Ashdown’s campaign to become MP for Yeovil was long on discipline and short on creature comforts. 
    If you haven’t packed a book for the train to Conference yet, 1983 – The Winning of Yeovil is vital reading for all Liberal Democrat campaigners. And as is typical of the Chair of the Party’s 2015 General Election campaign, Paddy has plenty to inspire and inform, as well as entertain.
    I can beat that. I can tell you what Paddy Ashdown said about winning Yeovil in 1983 in 1983.

    A rummage in a dusty cupboard produces Liberator 135, which was the issue on sale at the Liberal Party's 1983 Assembly in Harrogate.

    My name is not listed among the editorial collective, but I am pretty sure this is the first issue of the magazine I was involved with. The paste up took place at the party's offices at the National Liberal Club, and I was young and radical and out of my head on Cow Gum and cheap Italian Letraset.

    Liberator 135 contains an interview with Paddy Ashdown, the newly elected MP for Yeovil, by Alan Leaman. And here is an extract...
    What was the impact of the Alliance? 
    In the early days it was bad. The message of the Alliance got across very imperfectly to people in my constituency. Where Liberals had captured ground the advent of the Alliance has actually caused them to lose votes. I reckon the net loss (and we could measure the same wards in 1979/80/81/82/83) was two per cent, maybe three. 
    There were two factors involved. First of all was the unpopularity of Roy Jenkins. We found that time after time on the doorstep, quite unjustifiably, but I suspect him to be the most unpopular British politician after Tony Benn. It was quite irrational and very unfair, but it was there, starkly during the general election. 
    The second is that those largely Labour voters who we had won over somehow perceived the Alliance as going halfway back to Labour. Nobody actually said that to me, but that's my rationalisaton. That was a definite factor and one of the reasons why we played a high profile Liberal campaign: we did mention the Alliance but we put ourselves forward as Liberals.
    In the general election I suspect we came out even in the end, because while it was losing votes in the first two weeks of the campaign, as soon as we started to lift in the opinion polls those reservations suddenly vanished. In the last week of the campaign we had nobody saying they were worried about the Alliance. By the time of polling day it was nil benefit, nil loss.
    Liberator is still going strong, of course, and these days even has an electric blog. I miss the Cow Gum though.